Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Great Canadian Inventions

In no particular order...

IMAX film format, projectors and theatres

Game of Ice Hockey

Game of Basketball

The Canadarm    Robotic space arm, Canadarm 1 was on the space shuttles, 2 on the ISS, 3 on the new Lunar Gateway

Universal Health Care

5 Pin Bowling A Canadian sport invented by T.E. Ryan of Toronto in 1909

Goalie Mask Invented by professional hockey goal tender Jacques Plante in 1960


Able Walker The walker to help disabled people's mobility was patented by Norm Rolston in 1986

Access Bar Patented food bar designed to help burn fat by Dr. Larry Wang

Abdominizer The infomercial exercise darling invented by Dennis Colonello in 1984

Acetylene Thomas L. Wilson invented the production process in 1892

Acetylene Gas Buoy Navigational tool for lighthouses, invented by Thomas L. Wilson in 1904

Analytical Plotter 3D map-making system invented by Uno Vilho Helava in 1957

Bone Marrow Compatibility Test Invented by Barbara Bain in 1960

Bromine A process to extract bromine was invented by Herbert Henry Dow in 1890

Calcium Carbide Thomas Leopold Willson invented a process for calcium carbide in 1892

Electron Microscope Eli Franklin Burton, Cecil Hall, James Hillier, and Albert Prebus co-invented the electron microscope in 1937

Cardiac Pacemaker Invented by Dr. John A. Hopps in 1950

Insulin Process Frederick Banting, J.J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and James Collip invented the process for insulin in 1922

Java Programming Language A software programming language invented by James Gosling in 1994

Kerosene Invented by Dr. Abraham Gesner in 1846

The Process to Extract Helium from Natural Gas Invented by Sir John Cunningham McLennan in 1915

Prosthetic Hand An electric prosthetic invented by Helmut Lucas in 1971

Silicon Chip Blood Analyzer Invented by Imants Lauks in 1986

Synthetic Sucrose Invented by Dr. Raymond Lemieux in 1953

Air-Conditioned Railway Coach Invented by Henry Ruttan in 1858

Andromonon Three-wheeled vehicle invented in 1851 by Thomas Turnbull

Automatic Foghorn The first steam foghorn was invented by Robert Foulis in 1859

Antigravity Suit Invented by Wilbur Rounding Franks in 1941, a suit for high-altitude jet pilots

Compound Steam Engine Invented by Benjamin Franklin Tibbetts in 1842

CPR Mannequin Invented by Dianne Croteau in 1989

Electric Car Heater Thomas Ahearn invented the first electric car heater in 1890

Electric Streetcar John Joseph Wright invented an electric streetcar in 1883

Electric Wheelchair George Klein of Hamilton, Ontario, invented the first electric wheelchair for World War II veterans

Hydrofoil Boat Co-invented by Alexander Graham Bell and Casey Baldwin in 1908

Jetliner The first commercial jetliner to fly in North America was designed by James Floyd in 1949. The first test flight of the Avro Jetliner was on August 10, 1949.

Odometer Invented by Samuel McKeen in 1854

R-Theta Navigation System Invented to enable polar coordinate aviation navigation by J.E.G. Wright in 1958

Railway Car Brake Invented by George B. Dorey in 1913

Railway Sleeper Car Invented by Samuel Sharp in 1857

Rotary Railroad Snowplow Invented by J.E. Elliott in 1869

Screw Propeller Ship's propeller invented by John Patch in 1833

Snowmobile Invented by Joseph-Armand Bombardier in 1958

Variable Pitch Aircraft Propeller Invented by Walter Rupert Turnbull in 1922


Invention Description

AC Radio Tube Invented by Edward Samuels Rogers in 1925

Automatic Postal Sorter In 1957, Maurice Levy invented a postal sorter that could handle 200,000 letters an hour

Computerized Braille Invented by Roland Galarneau in 1972

Creed Telegraph System Fredrick Creed invented a way to convert Morse Code to text in 1900

Electric Organ Morse Robb of Belleville, Ontario, patented the world's first electric organ in 1928

Fathometer An early form of sonar invented by Reginald A. Fessenden in 1919

Film Colorization Invented by Wilson Markle in 1983

Gramophone Co-invented by Alexander Graham Bell and Emile Berliner in 1889

Imax Movie System Co-invented in 1968 by Grahame Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, and Robert Kerr

Music Synthesizer Invented by Hugh Le Caine in 1945

Newsprint Invented by Charles Fenerty in 1838

Pager Invented by Alfred J. Gross in 1949

Portable Film Developing System Invented by Arthur Williams McCurdy in 1890, but he sold the patent to George Eastman in 1903

Quartz Clock Warren Marrison developed the first quartz clock

Radio-Transmitted Voice Made possible by the invention of Reginald A. Fessenden in 1904

Standard Time Invented by Sir Sanford Fleming in 1878

Stereo-Orthography Map Making System Invented by T.J. Blachut, Stanley Collins in 1965

Television System Reginald A. Fessenden patented a television system in 1927

Television Camera Invented by F.C.P. Henroteau in 1934

Telephone Invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell

Telephone Handset Invented by Cyril Duquet in 1878

Tone-to-Pulse Converter Invented by Michael Cowpland in 1974, to use rotary phones in modern button phone systems.

Undersea Telegraph Cable Invented by Fredrick Newton Gisborne in 1857

Walkie-Talkies Invented by Donald L. Hings in 1942

Wireless Radio Invented by Reginald A. Fessenden in 1900

Wirephoto Edward Samuels Rogers invented the first way to transmit pictures by telegraph, telephone, or radio in 1925

Manufacturing and Agriculture

Invention Description

Automatic Machinery Lubricator One of the many inventions of Elijah McCoy

Agrifoam Crop Cold Protector Co-invented in 1967 by D. Siminovitch & J.W. Butler

Canola Developed from natural rapeseed by NRC personnel in the 1970s.

Half-Tone Engraving Co-invented by Georges Edouard Desbarats and William Augustus Leggo in 1869

Marquis Wheat The cultivar of wheat used worldwide and invented by Sir Charles E. Saunders in 1908

McIntosh Apple Discovered by John McIntosh in 1796

Peanut Butter An early form of peanut butter was first patented by Marcellus Gilmore Edson in 1884

Plexiglas Polymerized methyl methacrylate invented by William Chalmers in 1931

Potato Digger Invented by Alexander Anderson in 1856

Robertson Screw Invented by Peter L. Robertson in 1908

Rotary Blow Molding Machine Plastic bottle maker invented by Gustave Côté in 1966

SlickLicker Made for cleaning oil spills and patented by Richard Sewell in 1970

Superphosphate Fertilizer Invented by Thomas L. Wilson in 1896

UV-degradable Plastics Invented by Dr. James Guillet in 1971

Yukon Gold Potato Developed by Gary R. Johnston in 1966

Household and Everyday Life

Invention Description

Canada Dry Ginger Ale Invented in 1907 by John A. McLaughlin

Chocolate Nut Bar Arthur Ganong made the first nickel bar in 1910

Electric Cooking Range Thomas Ahearn invented the first in 1882

Electric Lightbulb Henry Woodward invented the electric lightbulb in 1874 and sold the patent to Thomas Edison

Garbage Bag (polyethylene) Invented by Harry Wasylyk in 1950

Green Ink Currency ink invented by Thomas Sterry Hunt in 1862

Instant Mashed Potatoes Dehydrated potato flakes were invented by Edward A. Asselbergs in 1962

Jolly Jumper Baby bouncer for prewalking babies invented by Olivia Poole in 1959

Lawn Sprinkler Another invention made by Elijah McCoy

Lightbulb Leads Leads made of nickel and iron alloy were invented by Reginald A. Fessenden in 1892

Paint Roller Invented by Norman Breakey of Toronto in 1940

Polypump Liquid Dispenser Harold Humphrey made pumpable liquid hand soap possible in 1972

Rubber Shoe Heels Elijah McCoy patented an important improvement to rubber heels in 1879

Safety Paint A high-reflectivity paint invented by Neil Harpham in 1974

Snowblower Invented by Arthur Sicard in 1925

Trivial Pursuit Invented in 1979 by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott

Tuck-Away-Handle Beer Carton Invented by Steve Pasjac in 1957

Zipper Invented by Gideon Sundback in 1913

Monday, February 28, 2022

IARU Note On Radio Communications from Ukraine


Feb 27, 2022 · HF · Tom, DF5JL

“Any radio amateur currently transmitting from Ukraine is risking his or her life. If you hear a Ukrainian station, do not broadcast its callsign, location or frequency — whether on the band, in a cluster or on social media. You may be putting lives at risk.”

Source: DARC HF Committee via facebook

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Annual RAC Renewal

Thank you! Your Radio Amateurs of Canada account has been updated.

Radio Amateurs of Canada

Thank You Aaren Jensen for renewing your RAC membership with the Radio Amateurs of Canada.

Your membership expires on:   March 3, 2023

You can request a personalized membership wallet card at https://www.rac.ca/membership-card-request/.

If you wish to obtain email forwarding using your call_sign@rac.ca please contact the webmaster at https://www.rac.ca/webmaster/.

You can place online orders for RAC and ARES merchandise at https://www.cafepress.com/rac_radio.

In accordance with the new anti-spam laws please subscribe at https://www.rac.ca/rac-notifications/ to have your email address added to our mailing list.

If you have any trouble, please feel free to contact us.

Best Regards,

Radio Amateurs of Canada

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Drake UL68 Communications Headphones

Copied from https://www.universal-radio.com/used/sold688.html

UL68 Drake Headphones
The Drake Headphones are monaural and terminate to a 1/4 inch phone plug. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about these headphones other than the Drake logo on the left earpiece and right earpiece. Not stellar headphones, but a rare find for the Drake collector. [06/14]

I really enjoyed this short description/review. I guess I'll need to test them out for myself. 

If anyone has any more technical information on these that would be greatly appreciated. I collect headphones and headsets for various purposes including Audiophile, Gaming, and Radio Communications.

With a mono 1/4 inch phone plug these are squarely in the Communications category, with Drake being an old amateur radio brand still popular with collectors.

Took me some time on the web to even find an actual model number (UL68), and it didn't help that a popular modern Canadian recording artist (Drake) dominated the search results about what headphones he personally uses when in the studio recording. Also strange that Beats by Dr. Dre also dominated the Drake Headphone searches since Drake the artist never sponsored any Beats headphones that I'm aware of?

Anyhow, another set of 'cans' for the wall.

Monday, August 16, 2021

North Okanagan Wildfire Scanner Feeds

Are you interested in monitoring the BC Forest Fire Service in the North Okanagan area, feel free to use these streaming links which do not require any radio equipment or the sharing of special or private frequencies. 

The use of streaming links assures that radio interference does not occur from the general public monitoring. When using actual radio equipment the operator could improperly transmit on these critical channels if the radio is improperly programmed or the user is improperly trained on its use. 

Streaming links also offer excellent audio quality as the radio receivers being used are located where the signal is strong and clear. 

Photo Credit: Contributed photo from Castanet.net
White Rock Lake fire photo taken from across the lake from
Canadian Lake View Estates in Vernon at about 11:15pm on Sunday

Web Browser Streams

Stream Title: North Okanagan Scanner


Scroll down until you reach Mount Point /northok

Stream Description: BCEHS, Regional Fire Dept, BC Forest Service

Content Type: audio/mpeg

Stream Genre: Scanner

Social Media Stream URL: https://twitter.com/northokscanner

iOS and Android Apps

Browser your device app store for Police Scanner Radio & Fire

Download the free app. Listening for free can be done with the occasional interference for ads. You don't need to purchase the app subscription unless you wish to pay and go ad-free.

App appearance in the app store (iOS)

App icon on your phone after installation (iOS)

Once you have the app loaded and running search for North Okanagan RCMP Fire BCAS and SAR

You can mark the feed as a Favorite so it's easier and quicker to find it later.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Network Power Control for Remote HF Stations or Repeaters (Luxul PDU-02)


Controlling the AC power on equipment in a remote location can be very helpful. The scenario I think of is a repeater 'locking up' in the dead of winter, getting to the site is difficult. It will take time to get to the site. In the end, you only need to turn the equipment off and on again. A job that should only take a few minutes if you can do it remotely over the internet.

Whether it's your remote PC, HF transceiver, or a repeater, if you have networking and the internet, a PDU can be a very handy piece of equipment.

My local ham club has a custom programmed Raspberry Pi doing multiple functions in one of our repeater shacks. Remotely rebooting that Pi has already been seen as a valuable feature especially in the dead of winter.

Recently I picked up a number of the Luxul PDU-02's. A professional piece of network power equipment designed for purposes like networking, home theatre, automation scenarios. MSRP on the PDU-02 is approx $225 US.

The setup couldn't be simpler.
  • Plug the provided 2ft. power cable into an AC power source. Any standard IEC PC power cord can be used if you need something longer. 
  • Plug the network into the ethernet port. Add the provided RF choke to the ethernet cable as close to the PDU as possible.
  • Plugin the power cables for two devices (or a string of devices on power bars if you need more plugs).
  • Get onto your network with a PC or laptop
  • The PDU will pickup an IP address over DHCP. If the PDU 2 fails to find a DHCP server the unit will default to the IP address You can use a network scanner to identify what IP it's using and plug that into your web browser to access the device's handy web interface.
Key features and specs.

  • Individual IP outlet control of 2 outlets.
  • 12 amp continuous load, 15 amp peaks.
  • Easy setup and control
  • IP “Autoping” and recovery for optimized system reliability
  • MOV surge and spike protection
  • Fast and easy configuration
  • Automatic actions improve system reliability
  • Automatic notification of connection status
  • Control start-up or shut-down with remote sequencing
  • Seamlessly interfaces with third-party control systems and cloud platforms for scheduling, control, reporting and customization
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Connected equipment warranty
  • Mounting kit included with a metal bracket for wall or flat surface mount.
  • RF choke provided for ethernet cable
  • Ground connector built-in.
  • The unit shipped with the latest firmware 1.10.00
  • Three account levels are built-in (admin, user, control system account). 
  • Accurate time from a network time source.
  • Configure email alerts.

The web interface for the PDU has all the basic features and is very nicely laid out.

Specifications Document

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Field Day 2021

Official Times

Field Day is always the fourth full weekend of June, beginning at 1800 UTC Saturday and running through 2059 UTC Sunday. Field Day 2021 is June 26-27.

Local Start (British Columbia, PST)

  • 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is
  • 11:00 a.m. Saturday, in Lumby, BC
Local End (British Columbia Canada PST)

  • 8:59 p.m. Sunday, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is
  • 1:59 p.m. Saturday, in Lumby, BC

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

'Poor Hams' USB VFO Knob for PowerSDR & Legacy Flex SDR's

Don't get me wrong, the FlexControl from FlexRadio Systems is a fantastic VFO knob for your Flex SDR. But the price tag might scare some away, and people like me prefer to keep my FlexControl at home in the shack with my primary Flex SDR transceiver, away from the grit and grime of outdoor use.

But with my other Flex, I was looking for a smaller, lighter, cheaper USB VFO knob solution for outdoors & Field Day. Something that I wouldn't be as worried about losing or damaging. So, that's why I went down the rabbit hole of USB Volume knobs. Many of these are inexpensive but also hardwired to control volume and mute functions only on computers and tablets. I needed something programmable to mimic the mouse wheel or keyboard clicks that would adjust my VFO up and down and other functions like locking the VFO.

Thanks to RemoteTX.Net (https://remotetx.net/usb-vfo-knob-setup/), I found a solution for certain USB Volume knobs with a hidden programming feature. If it worked for their remote station solutions, maybe it would work for PowerSDR and my QRP Flex 1500?

What I decided to try was the AIMOS USB Volume Control from Amazon for under CAD $35, a big difference from the CAD $240 FlexControl from RadioWorld. Reading the online reviews for this particular USB volume knob I saw one person mention the hidden programming feature, and I was willing to give it a try.

When the knob arrived I attempted the hidden programming mode and was thrilled when it loaded as described. I won't try and replicate the fantastic instructions on the RemoteTX website, but I will go into detail about how the Flex PowerSDR configuration is different. Use the link above to get the really detailed step-by-step instructions from RemoteTX.net, then once you understand the process, you can read my notes on how I customized it for PowerSDR.

  1. First off don't plug the USB knob into your computer right away unless you want to test it for its volume control functions before programming it.
  2. Next, open the Notepad software on Windows and leave the Notepad window open and blank. Make sure the window is active (at the front of all other windows), in Windows jargon, this is called FOCUS, the app that you are interacting with.
  3. Hold the Knob button DOWN while you plug it into a USB port on the computer and then RELEASE the button after 1 second.
  4. Slowly after a few seconds, the text will appear in the Notepad window. 
  5. DO NOT touch the mouse or keyboard from this point on, ONLY USE the knob and its button function and the lists and menus that it generates in your Notepad window. This is how to make all programming choices until the programming is completed.
  6. For PowerSDR I programmed the clockwise motion of the knob to increase the VFO by the PowerSDR increments set in the PowerSDR software. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL, and the key of the UP ARROW key.
  7. Next, I programmed the counter-clockwise motion of the knob to decrease the VFO by the PowerSDR increments set in the PowerSDR software. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL, and the key of the DOWN ARROW key.
  8. Then I programmed pressing the knob down (like a button) to lock/unlock the VFO frequency. This uses the keyboard modifier of CTRL and the key of the L key.
  9. There are 3 additional programming options that I modified to NONE for both the modifier and the key. I might change this in the future, but I don't want to make it more complicated especially when sharing my portable rig with others at events like Field Day. These extra modes were;
    • Press+Clockwise Turn (maybe for mode change up?)
    • Press+Counterclockwise Turn (maybe for mode change down?)
    • Long Press (maybe for triggering the autotuner?)
  10. When you have the options that please you, one last step is clicking on SAVE & QUIT. After you get the OK! you should unplug the USB knob, wait a few seconds, plug it back in, and test your new programming with the PowerSDR software. 
Sample images of the Notepad programming screens


I have tested the USB Volume controller with the modified VFO programming on the final official version of PowerSDR ver 2.7.2, and also with Power SDR by KE9NS ver 2.8.0. Both work great. I did not test on newer Flex Radios (6000+) that run on the SmartSDR software.
Here is the PowerSDR Keyboard Shortcut list I used. I've highlighted the ones I used, the remaining three modes supported by the volume knob could be used with any of the other keyboard shortcuts listed below.

Key SequenceFunction
space barTX/RX Toggle after MOX is on until you click on any other button of the GUI
-AF gain decrease
+AF gain increase
*Mute Toggle
, (comma)
. (period)
; (semi colon)
\ (back slash)
AFreq. Down 1 MHz*
BFilter Up*
DFreq. Down 10 KHz*
EFreq. Up 10 KHz*
FFreq Down 1 KHz*
GFreq Down 100 Hz*
HFreq Down 10 Hz*
IRIT Down*
JFreq Down 1 Hz*
KIF Shift Left
LIF Shift Right
MBand Change Up*
NBand Change Down*
PXIT Down*
QFreq Up 1 MHz*
RFreq Up 1 KHz*
SFreq Down 100 KHz*
TFreq Up 100 Hz*
UFreq Up 1 Hz*
VFilter Down*
WFreq Up 100 KHz*
XMode Change Up*
YFreq Up 10 Hz*
ZMode Down*
ALT+BToggle NB On/Off
ALT+FFilter Wider
ALT+IIF Shift Reset (centered)
ALT+MMemory Form
ALT+NToggle NB2 On/Off
ALT+QCW Speed Up
ALT+SSetup Form
ALT+TToggle TUNE on/off
ALT+WWave From
ALT+YXIT Zero Beat
ALT+ZZero Beat
F1CW Memory 1
F2CW Memory 2
F3CW Memory 3
F4CW Memory 4
F5CW Memory 5
CTRL+ "up arrow"VFO A Increase freq. by tune step
CTRL+ "down arrow"VFO A decrease freq. by tune step
CTRL+"-"AGC-T Gain Down
CTRL+"+"AGC-T Gain Up
CTRL+AToggle AGC on/off
CTRL+BToggle NR on/off
CTRL+CQuick Save
CTRL+FFilter Narrower
CTRL+LToggle VFO lock/unlock
CTRL+MToggle MOX on/off
CTRL+NToggle ANF on/off
CTRL+SToggle Split on/off
CTRL+VQuick recall
CTRL+WCW Speed Down
CTRL+ALT+UUCB configuration form

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Amateur Radio in Canada. What It Is, And What It Isn't.

The statements and comments in this post are the opinions of the writer. If I'm wrong on important details please correct me. If you have your own 'opinions' feel free to express them elsewhere, this is my blog hi hi.

So many repeated threads online related to the hobby. Sometimes I have the patience to answer the same questions over and over, and sometimes I wish people would search or scroll down and find the same questions answered over and over in the previous posts.

1) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued to a person by the Canadian Government department ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) formerly Industry Canada. 

  • Many Amateurs refer to this as a 'license' which technically it's not. I'm one of those people that doesn't mind the term license as it's easier to say and remember.
  • An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued when you pass the multiple-choice test with an Accredited Examiner. These examiners are volunteer Amateur Radio operators of a high knowledge level in the hobby who had been certified to run exams on behalf of ISED.
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 70% or higher is a pass. You will be issued the Basic Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. You will be allowed to operate radios in the 6M band and above (VHF, UHF, Microwave).
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 80% or higher earns you the designation Basic with Honors. You will be issued the Basic with Honors Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. This unlocks HF band privileges combined with 6m and above. So you can use ALL of the Canadian bands and frequencies allocated for amateur radio use.
  • Once you have your Basic Certificate of Proficiency you can stop, or continue to study and take the Morse code add-on (5 WPM in CW plus exam), or take the Advanced test and try for your Advanced Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio, which grants some additional benefits like building your own radios and operating and maintaining repeaters.

2) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' DOES NOT allow you to operate in other radio-related modes and systems in Canada including;

  • Marine radio (required to operate boats)
  • Aeronautical radio (required to operate planes)
  • Land Mobile radio (used commercially between work vehicles and office base)  
  • Rural Route radio (used on rural & logging roads to call out traffic locations)
An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is only for use in the spectrum of radio assigned to the Amateur Radio hobby. Yes, this is a lot of bands and frequencies, but there is little to no overlap and one 'license' does not replace or substitute for another.

3) I'm an avid offroader and I was told Amateur Radio is an excellent way to communicate off the beaten path and utilize mountain top repeaters where the cell phone is out of range.

  • Yes, you can utilize amateur radio this way. You must follow the amateur radio rules and share the bands and frequencies with others. You cannot claim a frequency as your own, or tell others to get off your frequency.
  • Keep in mind if it's multiple people in your party, and each has a radio in their vehicle or on their person they ALL need an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' to communicate with one another.
  • You can't use your amateur radios for other purposes (like rural route radio communication on logging roads for example).
  • There are alternatives to Amateur Radio for offroading. Look into https://vernoncommunications.ca/4wdabc-gets-bc-wide/

4) What does it cost to get an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency'

  • Typically it should cost $100. Radio clubs run courses that typically cost around $100. These will typically include the coursebook from Coax Publications with a value of $50 and will also include the classroom teaching and the final exam all together in that $100 bundle.
  • There is free course material online on the internet, the quality of that material varies, where the Coax Publication coursebook works on being up to date to match the current government exam.
  • If you chose to self-study you will need to find your own examiner and that might also include a small fee as examiners are allowed to charge for their expenses if they wish. 
  • If you research online well, you can find all the materials you need to study for free, you could also find an examiner for free, so potentially the cost could be nothing. More often people don't mind the $100 investment in getting classroom learning, a good book to keep and study from, and the convenience of an examiner-led scheduled exam at the end.
to be continued...

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Antenna SWR Chart


Click on chart image for a larger view

Spent some time in the shack this weekend moving cabling around and inserting the new LDG auto tuner in the previous blog post.

Whenever I make changes like this I like to test everything on the antenna analyzer to make sure the SWR doesn't change and also refresh my memory on which HF antenna provides the best SWR on each band.

As part of the process, this new chart was made and will be printed and placed at eye-level from my main operating position.

Key information presented in the chart;

  • Tuner input by name
  • Antenna assignment in the tuner
  • Antenna by name
  • All HF bands that are workable on either antenna.
  • All SWR levels from the approximate center of each band,
  • Color coding, green for SWR of 1 to 3. yellow for SWR of 3 - 5, orange for SWR of 5 - 10
  • In the blue cells, I identify the bottom and top frequencies for each band.
  • And finally, the grey cells identify the center band frequencies that I use when testing the SWR on each antenna with the antenna analyzer.
Happy to confirm that with just 2 HF antennas there are 8 HF bands that I can operate on with an SWR of 2:1 or lower. And I can push that up to 10 bands with the help of the tuner.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

New Year & New Wiring Configuration

With a new year comes a new purchase and a re-wire of the shack. 

The new purchase is an LDG AT-200ProII antenna tuner. Some nice features of this unit include two antenna inputs and a 200-watt max power handling with SSB and CW signals on most bands. Another great feature is the versatility of this model line from LDG allowing them to work with almost any transceiver instead of some of their other models that are designed to pair with a specific model of transceiver (for example my Yaesu FT-847 transceiver and it's matching LDG YT-847 auto tuner).

The new wiring layout suits my operating style, one operator using one radio at a time. It will allow me to have up to 4 of my HF transceivers wired into a grounded antenna switch. I can select one radio at a time to operate on. Typically the other radios are turned off when not in use.

After deciding the radio to operate with, and switching to that radio on the switch, my signal will pass onto a nice large display HF SWR Meter (Daiwa - CN-801HP) before passing into the new auto tuner (LDG AT-200ProII). In the tuner, I can select either one of my HF antennas (dipole or beam) to transmit & receive on. Each antenna has a high-quality lightning arrestor installed and proper grounding of all the equipment and antennas (safety ground, lightning ground, & rf ground).

I know this isn't rocket science and I'm not inventing something new here. For my solo operating style this is just a new versatile configuration that supports all of the following;

  • Four (4) transceivers wired in and available for use (always just one at a time).
  • A manual switch that also supports a straight to ground position when no equipment is being used.
  • An investment in a nice big & well lit SWR Meter that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • An investment in a nice Auto Tuner that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • Two HF antenna choices that can be easily selected on the Auto Tuner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

'Poor Hams' GeoChron Amateur Radio Information Display

The instructions below still work with no problems even though the software and Linux have had multiple updates. Also, if you happen to get your hands on a cheap Intel-based Apple iMac 20" from around 2007 it makes a PERFECT HamClock system as it's already an all-in-one PC, has full driver support from LinuxLite, and has a native display resolution of 1680x1050. Just a perfect resolution if you compile the software for 1600x960.

Let's be honest, almost every amateur radio operator wants a real GeoChron but likely can't afford one.

If you aren't familiar with GeoChron, this 50+-year-old companies product is a very complex analog electric wall clock that displays the world map and dynamically tracks the greyline (showing parts of the world in the dark of night, and parts of the world in the light of day). These expensive clocks are still popular items in the boardrooms or lobbies of multi-national corporations. Over 30,000 of these clocks have been produced in GeoChron's history. In recent years a digital version of the GeoChron is also available and it's intended to connect to a large 4K TV to show the traditional GeoChron dynamic map, as well as other cool data, live from the Internet.

Cut to an ARRL QST magazine article in 2017 from a fellow ham (WB0OEW) who created another internet-connected information software program for micro PC boards & touchscreen displays. His software 'Ham Clock' was focused on information that an amateur radio operator would appreciate like:
  • Operators callsign (with control of color scheme for alphanumeric text and background)
  • Internet synced UTC clock with hours, minutes and seconds as well as DST on/off
  • Day, month, year
  • Stopwatch or remaining time countdown
  • Screen lock so preferred setting are not changed by accident
  • Mercator or Azimuthal map view with grayline
  • Toggle Lat/Long map grid, or Tropics, or none.
  • Moon phases as seen from the earth surface.
  • Sun position directly overheard.
  • OACAP predictions for any path at several power levels
  • trend plots and predictions for solar flux, sunspot, XRay and Kp index
  • short and long path antenna beam heading and distance to any DX location
  • Satellite and ISS tracking and display next satellite rise/set times and overhead pass (not just global track)
  • local weather, time, grid square, prefix and sun rise/set times at any DX location
  • live scrolling DX cluster display
  • live solar images from Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • live NCDXF beacon location, time and frequency schedule
  • live RSS feeds from popular ham related web sites
  • show Moon rise/set and overhead passes for EME
  • adjust time forward or back to explore gray line location, satellite orbits etc
  • and these are just a few...
The Ham Clock software is now also available in a rebranded (HF Clock) a commercial product with an embedded microcomputer and touch screen display in your choice of nice wood desktop frame. Shop for this product on the manufacturer's website https://veritiumresearch.com/hf-clock/. So if you want to buy a product like a GeoChron or HF Clock, I've given you the basic information to research and order your own clock. 

Ham Clock DIY

However many hams like the DIY part of the hobby and maybe don't want to purchase these unique clocks and amateur data systems, hence the reason for this post, building your own Ham Clock on the cheap using your own parts and pieces.

The original Ham Clock software from WB0OEW is still free to download from his website, he even includes instructions on various ways to compile the software for the Raspberry Pi and a 7" or 9" touch screen LCD or even on a desktop PC. 

VA7AEJ's Ham Clock 32" LCD TV Project

For my project, I wanted to utilize some equipment that I already had (ie a free project), and I also wanted a little more versatility out of the host device (the PC). I also preferred a larger screen easier to see from around the room.

My parts list

  • An older small form factor Acer desktop computer with HDMI output. A PC with any output graphics that support your monitor or TV would work.
  • An older 32" Sony Bravia LCD TV that's already mounted on the wall in my shack for watching TV.
  • USB Flash Drive (4GB)


  • Linux Lite 5.0, a lightweight linux distro built for older computers and based on Ubuntu Linux. 
  • You may use actual Ubuntu, or any other flavor of Linux based on Ubuntu should work.
  • Ham Clock ver 2.49 (current version as of July 2020) downloaded and compiled during the setup steps below.

Setup Steps

  • From another PC download the ISO image of the latest version of Linux Lite.
  • Using tools like 'Balena Etcher' or 'Rufus' flash the downloaded linux ISO to a USB flash drive creating bootable installation media for the PC. You may also burn the image to a DVD if you prefer that method and your intended target PC has a DVD drive.
  • I booted the target PC (my old Acer) from the USB flash drive and installed Linux Lite.
    • All the installation setup screens are common sense and the default options were chosen most of the time.
    • On the partition screen, I said to wipe the drive and replace the contents with Linux Lite.
    • On the user/password screen, I set the account to log in automatically for convenience.
  • At the end of the Linux Lite installation, I shut down the system and removed the USB flash drive (or DVD) and then powered on the system on the newly installed Linux Lite.
  • Once the system is booted I went straight to the Terminal program and the command line. Cut and paste these commands into the Terminal session and run each line on it's own before advancing to the next line.  For example in the first line select the text sudo apt-get update
  • Scan for system updates   sudo apt-get update
  • Install all updates found   sudo apt-get upgrade
  • Add some required software   sudo apt install curl make g++ xorg-dev
  • Reboot the system and then resume in Terminal again.
  • Download Ham Clock   curl -o ESPHamClock.zip http://www.clearskyinstitute.com/ham/HamClock/ESPHamClock.zip
  • Unpack the Ham Clock download   unzip ESPHamClock.zip
  • Change to the new Ham Clock directory   cd ESPHamClock
  • Compile the Ham Clock program   make -j 4 hamclock-1600x960
    • NOTE: Ham Clock supports only four screen sizes so pick the one that's under the max resolution of your monitor or TV attached to the Ham Clock PC.
    • Ham Clock resolutions - 800 x 480  -  1600 x 960  -  2400 x 1440  -  3200 x 1920
    • My TV's max resolution is 1920 x 1080, so I compiled the software at 1600x960 as both the width and height of HamClock is less than the height and width of the TV's resolution. If you pick higher Ham Clock settings the program will be larger than the monitor and areas will not be seen on the screen.
  • Create a desktop shortcut for launching Ham Clock
    • Right-click on an empty area of the Linux Lite desktop and select Create Launcher 
    • Name: Ham Clock
    • Comment: 
    • Command: ./hamclock-1600x960
    • Working Directory: /home/[your-username]/ESPHamClock
    • Icon: select something you like from the available options

The first time Ham Clock launches it goes to a setup screen where you enter your callsign, your Lat and Long, or you can let the app geolocate with your internet connection (not always as accurate).

As Ham Clock was written for a touch display you can use a mouse to click on most parts of the screen and make changes. The Ham Clock User Guide is an easy read on understanding the initial setup and use of the software once installed and running.

So why didn't I just do this install on a Raspberry Pi and connect that to the TV? Well like I said I have other plans for this Linux Lite PC connected to that TV, so this method allows me to run Ham Clock when the PC is not in use for other purposes, but if I want to watch a movie or listen to some music I can close Ham Clock and fire up Kodi or Spotify etc.